Final Thoughts on the Kentucky Derby

Well, I was unable to extend my streak of correct Derby choices to two, as Big Brown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a monster. Whether or not he can make history and win the Triple Crown remains to be seen, although I doubt they’ll be too many challengers in the shorter Preakness in two weeks, so the 12 furlong Belmont will probably be his main hurdle.

The main mistake that I made when handicapping this race was to assume that the pace was going to be super hot. Bob Black Jack got to the lead easily but definitely didn’t race through scorching fractions (:23.3 first quarter? I was thinking more like sub :22…) Recapturetheglory and surprisingly, Big Brown, didn’t go to the lead as expected. As a result of the slower than expected fractions, there wasn’t really a pace disintegration, and therefore none of the deep closers really had a prayer. Colonel John was my pick and he closed nicely to finish 6th, but the slow pace had left him too far back without enough time to make up the ground he’d given up early. And it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as Big Brown’s explosive stretch move certainly put to rest any doubt that he could get the distance (he earned a career best Beyer of 109). I actually muttered the words “Big Brown is finished” as he hung five wide of the rail in sixth place coming around the final turn. This certainly wasn’t the race anyone expected Big Brown to run if he were to win, which made his five-wide trip and eventual domination all the more impressive. Had he been able to get to the lead earlier or even had a slightly decent trip, he might have won this race by 15 lengths.

Of course, all of this excitement came to a screeching halt when Eight Belles, whose energetic runner-up performance was probably even more surprisingly strong than Big Brown’s was, suddenly broke down during the gallop out. It’s always horrifying when a horse has to be put down on the track, but this was so uniquely tragic considering the timing of the breakdown, not to mention that this was the second place horse (and a filly to boot) that had just run impossibly well and was galloping out normally. I suppose those class concerns that lead me to label her a “throw out” caught up with her after all, but not before she ran the race of her life to ruin my exacta (I had Big Brown-Denis of Cork, which wouldn’t have been to shabby!) In any event, I hope we don’t have to deal with anything like this again for a long time.

On to the Preakness, where there might only be five horses for all I know, and I can’t say I blame the others.

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